"FIVE STARS! Unforgettable. . .don't forget to breathe." --Huntress Reviews on Shadow Bound
While the world slumbers in Shadow, a fatal plague has swept through magekind. No one is immune to its ravages, and now that her father is dead, Cari Dolan must wield the fearful magic of her House to save innocent lives.
"The sexual tension is palpable. A stand-out page turner." --RT Book Reviews on Fire Kissed
At the mage Council's bidding, dangerous outsider Mason Stray joins forces with Cari to hunt down the fiend responsible. But can he trust the daughter of wealth and privilege, especially when his own son is at risk?
"If dark adult fairy tales appeal to you, you should definitely check this series out" --Fiction Vixen on Shadowman
The princess will always welcome to her bed the warrior, even if one must pay the ultimate price. . . .
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The Shadow Kissed Series
By Erin Kellison
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 Clarissa Ellison
All rights reserved.
Cari Dolan sat on a hard straight back chair in the servants' access hallway to the study, where her stepmother and stepsisters wouldn't think to look. Her gaze was fixed on the white wall before her. Her eyes were hot and gritty, but she wasn't going to cry. If she breathed shallowly, the smell of smoke from her father's funeral pyre grew faint, almost absent. The rest of her was in a cold grip, arms folded for heat, her body painfully tense, which made moving an unthinkable effort.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a maid peek down the hallway, then dart back out of sight.
This chair was for Allison, the housekeeper, who was supposed to wait outside the study until called upon by a member of the grieving family. Like when Cari was four and her mom had died; her father had summoned Allison to take her from the room with the instructions to tuck her in bed and read a nice story and to stay by her side until her father could come himself.
Now the Dolan heir was hiding there instead of standing tall next to her stepmother and silently vowing reprisal. Part of her mage brain knew this was a time for heat and curses and dark plots, but ...
Cari rocked forward, foundering in a wave of loss. She hadn't been ready to lose him. To become him. She wanted her father back to protect her from the storm of everything that was to come. His loss made her feel so unready. So scared.
For several weeks now, starting with the Stanton May Fair Massacre, unexplained attacks on magekind had taken place. Shadow, the strength of magekind, had been poisoned, and the death it brought was a catching kind, a plague.
A quiet had settled over the Houses, a hush of abject terror. Some caught the plague from direct contact, falling where they stood in a fester of hot wounds. Others carried it unknowing with them back to their Houses. A touch here. A kiss. And the poison worked more slowly, but nevertheless, claimed its victims. It had riddled families and left heartache in its wake.
And yet some Houses the death passed over, when a member of that family had clearly been touched, but had never fallen ill. Suspicions were aroused—Why my House and not yours?—and blood oaths taken. More lives were claimed, this time by violence.
Until each House was closed to outsiders, and the spread of the plague was halted.
Cari looked down at a welt now healing on the inside of her elbow—so ugly. The mage plague had taken her father, and it had almost taken her. She remembered too well the burn inside her. Remembered screams ripping up her throat—but she had somehow lived through it. If this smothering quiet was living, that is.
Even whispers of staff and family were banked by half breaths, so they sounded more like the sighs and hisses of the fae who watched from the other side of the veil.
The common conclusion: Some ruthless House was orchestrating a takeover, Shadow against Shadow. They meant to cripple magekind, their own people, with fear and death, and usher in the Dark Age themselves as Lords of a fallen land.
She should be striving to find out who was doing this, who had killed her father, and almost her. But somehow she was trapped in yesterday, so tired, so heartsick, and she was just now discovering that the past turned frigid as time pushed relentlessly forward.
And yet, there were so many things to take care of now that her father was in ashes. So much work. She'd always thought of him simply as her father, but to everyone else he was Caspar Dolan, and that meant something. She had no idea where to start beyond trying to remember to breathe and blink.
Her father answered voicelessly inside her: Secure the succession.
Right. But the acknowledgment came bitterly.
The House guards had done that by dragging her away when her father had fallen to one knee, midstride, in the courtyard of their family's business compound, his skin mottling with gray eruptions. Murdered. By then every mage House knew it was a contagious kind of attack, so she couldn't even hold her father's hand. The strain of bucking to get free of the guards still racked her body. All sound had been drawn out of the memory, but she could still see her father collapsing in front of her.
How ironic that she'd caught the mage plague anyway. And both guards had died as well.
She closed her eyes and pressed the heels of her hands to her lids.
But yes, technically she'd survived the attack, so the Dolan succession was secure. Now she had an unfathomable amount of work before her but no heart to begin. Father?
Protect the House.
She nodded to his memory, which had a bit of his warmth. Yes.
House meant family, and she had a lot of it. Her stepmother Scarlet, and her stepsisters Stacia and Zel. And her uncle on her birth mother's side, and cousins, their spouses, children, indentured mages, assorted dependents, who'd taken shelter within the wards. Dolan House was full to bursting, and she had to provide for them all.
Cari felt lightheaded with the load of work ahead.
She'd have to look into the Dolan finances immediately. Get a grip on the money.
Pitch, Cari swore to herself, thinking of Zella's betrothal and the political dancing that it required.
And then there was DolanCo, the family business, which she must now run. The special project that her father had thought would sustain the House through the advent of the Dark Age could not be ignored. The fact hadn't changed—it had actually grown more imperative—that they would need a highly valuable source of revenue or trade when the human markets collapsed, and DolanCo's more mundane products wouldn't provide for the House. Now that was up to her, too.
She broke in a half laugh-half cry at the absurdity of it all, took a shuddering breath, got a nose full of her father's smoke, and wheezed into a sob, tears spilling over swollen banks.
No, no, no. She wiped at her face. Tears accomplished nothing. She was the Head of the House now.
Maybe she ought to start with a list. Yes, that's what she'd do.
Her father would have paper and a pen in his desk.
She was wiping her nose when she pushed into the study. She expected to find Stacia or Zel, who'd shadowed her every step since yesterday afternoon, watching and worrying and trying to feed her.
But seated in front of the desk was a strange woman. Her deep red hair was impeccably coiffed. She'd dressed in sleek black slacks and a vibrant blue silk blouse. Her ankles were crossed, legs angled to the side. The room positively simmered with her presence. She had to be greatmage Kaye Brand, High Seat of the Council, the one who'd started this civil war in the first place.
Cari's heartbeat tripped.
How had Brand gotten through the Dolan wards? Was she infected? Had she brought more death here?
Brand slanted her gaze Cari's way. "Are you done feeling sorry for yourself?"
Cari's attention narrowed, yesterday and today colliding in a silent cataclysm, and with an inner burst of heat, she finally felt her sluggish blood rush.
Kaye Brand was going to die. If not for her, none of this would have happened. Cari's father would still be alive.
"Please, sit." Kaye gestured to the chair at Cari's hip. She didn't seem the least bit worried for her safety, even here within the House of an enemy. "We have a lot to talk about."
"How did you get inside?" Cari demanded. Then, to the closed study door she barked, "Zella!"
"I have a vassal, Marcell Lakatos," she said, "who has an aptitude for crossing boundaries. He assisted me."
Very handy person to have on hand. And too dangerous to live. Lakatos should be killed.
But Brand seemed healthy enough, in spite of her transport. How dare she come here at a time like this? Anger felt good. Felt strong.
The door opened and Cari's eldest stepsister leaned partway inside, her white-blond hair sliding over her shoulder. She held a plate with a sandwich. The hopeful look in her eyes turned to alarm when she spotted Brand.
"I need a weapon," Cari said. When Zel didn't move, she added, "Now, please."
Mages killed their enemies.
Kaye Brand examined her manicure. "I've done nothing to harm you or your House."
Zel had left the door open and was summoning the guards, what few they had left. Rapid footsteps sounded down the hallway.
Cari sputtered. Nothing to harm her? If not for Brand ... "You divided magekind, set House against House." She'd started the conflict that had just taken the life of her father.
Which would be enough to kill Kaye here and now, and yet there was more. Kaye had also betrayed magekind to the Order of angels. The Order, who'd again and again throughout history struck Shadow down, trying to wipe the soulless mages from the world. The Order would not allow magic to rise. But Kaye had taken an angel for a lover—his prick a key in the lock of their Council, opening their ranks to intrusion.
The bloodshed had started soon after, Houses turning on each other, each climbing over another to topple Brand from the High Seat. And now this latest assassin, slowly working his way through magekind with his plague ... Everyone would know the killer when he claimed the High Seat for himself.
Guards burst into the room, guns drawn and aimed at Brand. A commotion sounded in the great hall as other family gathered for this new crisis. Her uncle's voice rose. One of the kids started crying again. Staff murmuring. Her stepmother demanded to know what was going on.
Cari stepped back out of the guards' line of fire, satisfied. Kaye might've gotten inside Dolan House, but she was not leaving it alive. Her father had wanted the High Seat of the Council for Dolan; well, this was Cari's chance.
Kaye glanced impassively over her shoulder at the guards, then back to Cari. "I could have killed you when you were crying in the hallway."
Cari saw Zel's gaze flick to the service entrance. No more hiding there. No more hiding anywhere.
Cari shrugged at Kaye. "Too bad for you."
"And"—Kaye opened her hands—"I am unarmed."
"You're never unarmed." Brand was a fire mage.
"I came to help," Kaye said. "I don't want to hurt anyone."
"You should've thought of that before you spread your legs." Dolan had never been allied with Brand, but still Cari's father had respected the House, at least until it was clear how Kaye had risen so quickly in power and who her protectors were. Vicious angels.
Dolan House did not support the Council, would not, with Brand in the seat. Lines had been drawn.
"You don't know what you're talking about," Kaye said. "Point is, you've been targeted."
"We know who our enemies are."
Protect the House. Her father's voice again.
Cari looked to Zel, who was peeking back in the office. "Get out, get everyone away from here, but stay inside the Dolan wards."
Zel shook her head. "I'm not leaving you."
"It wasn't a request," Cari shot back. She had a duty to her family. "Get everyone out." Brand might not be contagious, but she was deadly.
With a long, desperate look, Zel fled the study. The guards stood their ground. Dolan only employed the loyal. The voices in the great hall rose for a moment, then broke into disparate pieces of quiet as her family fled to the sub-houses or shelters on the property.
Now it was just Dolan against Brand, and by the pitch of Shadow, Dolan would prevail. Cari would not disappoint the memory of her father. She would be enough for this. She'd make his memory proud.
Kaye shook her head. "No one knows which House is responsible for the recent deaths. There is no faction among us that has been left untouched."
"Then whoever is doing this is simply covering their tracks." Didn't take a seat on the Council to be able to figure that out. "Kill someone from their own side to avoid reprisal."
Kaye looked thoughtful. "Excellent point. And what if your father was murdered, your House challenged, not because of his own power and clout, but as a decoy in a larger plot?"
Took a second for the word "decoy" to attach to "father" in her mind.
Couldn't be. Her father was too great a man to die as a mere decoy.
Brand smiled. "And the killer left an inexperienced young woman in possession of Dolan House."
"I'm only a year younger than you." She could handle herself. She could be her father's daughter. A gale of emotion was battering her like a cruel wind, but she turned her face into it. She wouldn't fail him.
"I was not inexperienced when it came time for me to act."
"I don't want your kind of experience."
The insult seemed to sail right past Kaye. "Nevertheless, it is still time for you to act."
"I'll do what I have to." Cari was done crying at least. She could thank Brand for that much.
"I know," Kaye said, "which is why I've come to help you."
Cari shook her head no. Brand help Dolan? What a crock. Brand would take advantage of the turmoil in Dolan House to get Cari to do what she wanted.
Cari would fight her instead. Dolan Shadow was old and powerful. Brand fire against Dolan's umbra.
"How about some incontrovertible facts?" Kaye winked. "Jack Bastian, my ... significant other ... works very hard to see that I am safe."
Cari snorted. Significant other. Maybe it was her angel lover that was picking off mages one by one.
"But eventually whoever killed your father will attempt to kill me. Perhaps he or she already has tried, and Bastian's angel light has kept the killer at bay."
Cari smiled. "Or maybe the killer thinks you'll be the instrument of your own destruction."
"I admit, I am my own worst enemy." Kaye smiled back. "But I don't want to die. And I want this killer found before he can get to me. There is one House, and only one House, I know of that can identify the person responsible."
Cari's belly twisted. Something had been nagging at the back of her mind, something she'd refused to think about.
Kaye continued, "I was wondering if you got a sense of the killer when he attacked your father."
"The sickness came out of nowhere."
"But surely you searched for the antumbra before it dissipated into Shadow?" Kaye was direct, all business now. "You'd be able to recognize the mage from whom the tainted Shadow originated if you were to meet him or her again."
By the time her father had fallen, Cari had already been feeling the effects of the poisoned Shadow. She hadn't thought to search for the antumbra, the unique trail of magic a mage leaves behind. The ability was a Dolan property of magic—to see into the shadow souls of mages, past and present. To name them, to know them. The guards had dragged her away. And even if they hadn't, she'd been too overcome to think ... to act. She'd been caught in one extended, silent scream. Father!
She could've named his killer.
Kaye dropped her gaze to her hands, obviously waiting for Cari's horrible realization to pass. "I've made some very painful mistakes myself."
Cari burned; Kaye was right. She should've fought harder, thought harder. Her father would've still died, but she would have his murderer.
"But your mistake," Kaye continued, "can be undone. You have only to investigate the scene, perhaps the next death, to discover the information you missed the first time. And in so doing, you could show magekind that Dolan House is still strong, still able, and is out for blood."
She could try again.
She had to try again.
"And as you survived the plague, it stands to reason that you are immune. Very few have survived this."
Cari put a hand to a welt on her neck, still so sore. She'd survived, was stronger than the plague. It suddenly occurred to her that the scars she would bear would show everyone that Dolan Shadow had been stronger.
"I propose a temporary alliance."
Cari frowned at Brand. Fire wanting to ally with umbra?
"For the sole purpose of combining our talents and information to destroy the House responsible for the plague ripping through our people. We can't afford to be weakened now; there are too many threats, from too many directions, to suffer this plague from one of our own kind."
Kaye was talking like Cari's father had, making sense. Yes, there was too much to worry about to let a mage destroy them from the inside.
Kaye cocked her head, surprise flexing her expression. "I'm glad you agree."
"This mage needs to be stopped, his House broken."
"We agree again."
Excerpted from SOUL KISSED by Erin Kellison. Copyright © 2013 Clarissa Ellison. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A plague is sweeping through the magekind. Cari Dolan and Mason Stray must join forces to discover the plot behind this mysterious and deadly illness. The attraction between Cari and Mason have always burned hot but their stations in life have always kept them apart. Now working intimately on this investigation, the carefully constructed walls start to crumble. I have to admit that this being the second book in this series and me not reading the first, I had a lot of “catching up” to understand what was going on. Once I understood the concept, I was intrigued by this amazing parallel world Kellison created. A great premise, this series has huge potential. The plot is completely original with the Fae/Mage combination and the entire shadow conjuring...I found it refreshing to read something so unlike anything I've ever read before. (Hey, with me that's saying something)! A good amount of closure without the perfect HEA, Kellison created a book that still has unresolved world issues and leaves you thinking of what will happen next. I will be anxiously looking for more to come in this series. I received this ARC copy of Soul Kissed from Kensington Books - Zebra in exchange for a honest review. This book is set for publication September 3, 2013. Written by: Erin Kellison Series: Shadow Kissed Sequence in Series: 2 Paperback: 352 pages Publisher: Kensington - Zebra Publication Date: September 3, 2013 ISBN-10: 1420118986 ISBN-13: 978-1420118988 Rating: 4 Genre: Dark Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance Age Recommendation: Adult
*Book source ~ NetGalley Cari Dolan of Dolan House needs to use her House’s special type of magic to find the ones responsible for loosing a plague on magekind. In order to ensure her safety the Council pairs her with Mason Stray, an outsider with no House affiliation. Together they must solve the mystery before all of magekind is wiped out. This is one interesting take on magic and what happens when it’s revealed to the rest of the world. So, while magekind is contracting and dying from a deliberate plague set upon them (with few survivors) and trying to find their killer(s) they now have to deal with non-magical people getting hysterical over the fact that magic is real. There is a lot of action, some serious sexy nomminess, a mystery to solve, and some cool magic to learn about. All-in-all an excellent way to spend some time immersed in an alternate reality.
I really enjoyed this book the details were very and it was very well written. It kept me interested throughout the whole book. I laughed at the part where it says time to become stealth, and explains that was the secret name his dad had called him after the silent stink bombs he'd dropped as a baby. It was the only nickname that stuck. The end
I loved it. I'm so happy that I came a crossed this series last year. It's a must own series for me! I'm amazed by how well the world Erin built and continues to build with each book. I love seeing my favorite characters from previous books pop up (Khan!). She bring something new with each book nothing is ever boring or repetitive. Each book is fresh, exciting and for me always a one sit read. Mason and Cari were so great together. They both brought out the best in each other and were perfect. What can I say I actually liked the villain Maeve aka Mad Mab aka fae Queen aka Cari's (lots of greats) grandmother who possesses/lives inside her grandkids. Maeve was hilarious I couldn't get enough of her. I wish she would have been a bit more reasonable but I guess that what's happens when you have lots of power you go a little Mad. The real villain for me was Liv Mason's ex and Fletcher's mom. When she jumped back into the picture I could have screamed. Really didn't like her. Which leads me to Fletcher aka Stealth (coolest name ever for a really great kid) I didn't know how he was going to fit into all of this and really he was awesome and I hope one day he'll have his own book. Not yet he's to young. Okay now I need to go back and read all the books again. You don't know what you’re missing until you start reading a very well developed creative world and characters! I hope this series never ends! Recommend for any paranormal romance and urban fantasy fans!
This book is a stand alone novel, which is more its downfall than its strength. This is the fifth book in the Shadow universe and the second Shadow Kissed book but it feels very disjointed from its predecessors. I have not read the Shadow series, but I did read the first book in this series Fired Kissed. This book didn’t even felt so different from the last, I forgot that it was part of the same series. I wish the book had started with a brief synopsis and a glossary of terms. Fire Kissed came out more than a year ago, and I forgot so much, a refresher would have been nice. Kaye Brand does make an appearance at he beginning of the book but it is more in passing. A bit more than half way through the book we are shown an in-depth interaction with past characters, but it doesn’t solve the problem. Cari is a okay herione. When we are introduced to her she is dealing with a major amount of stress. There is a disease ravaging mage kind, she has just lost her father, and she is thrust into the role of head of her house. However I never felt like I got see her personality. She just sort of blurred into the typical urban fantasy/paranormal romance lead female character that is strong but truly desires a alpha male to lean on. Mason is a cool hero. No brooding, but a lot of suspicion on his part which as a stray is justified. However I wish there’d been time spent delving more into his past. For instance we know that his father was human but who was his mother? What house was she from? Did she raise him? If not who did? Why didn’t any of the angels at the Segue tell him he had a soul? And most importantly why was he so quick to sign Fletcher over to Webb? I know it was for his safety but there were several problems with the deal. It was brought to Mason by the angels, a group he doesn’t trust because until very recently the goal was to wipe mage kind from the earth. So knowing how manipulative the houses are why didn’t Mason fight more for the choice, especially since he already has a relationship with Brand house. Why didn’t Mason even suggest that Kaye take Fletcher? Also why don’t the strays form a alliance, even though they may not have ward stones there is safety in numbers. And they can still make wards. Mason even had a home and land where he could’ve built a “Stray House”. The story has a very slow start, and felt tedious at time, but more than half way through the book the action picks up. The ending was good and there was no cliffhanger. I don’t know who the next book will follow, but I do know that Fletcher was a trip. That kid was my favorite character and I can’t wait to see what kind of man he becomes. I like this world so I will read the nest book, and I give this one 2.5 stars.
Action-packed from the first page on! Mason Stray is a man of independence, a man with skills that only some have witnessed and known how to utilize. Most of all, Mason is a father. His son Fletcher is his life, his world, and when a plague among the Mage threatens him, he does what any good father would do – gives him up to protect him. Cari Dolan has survived the plague when many others haven’t, including her father. Now the head of Dolan House, she has the weight of the world on her shoulders and is determined to find the fiend responsible for bringing this race-ending plague to magekind. Soon she discovers that her Shadow has grown stronger and nearly out of control, a voice in her head becomes clear. The voice belongs to Maeve, a fae queen who isn’t there for good. Cari and Mason work together to find the villain that threatens not only their lives, but their world. With the plague, Shadow is in the open and the humans are not happy about it. Danger lurks in every turn of their investigation and the question of who to trust becomes first, and foremost, in their minds. Second, perhaps, to their growing attraction that by mage rules can't happen. SOUL KISSED by Erin Kellison is action upon action from the first page straight on through to the end. If you read the first book in the series, FIRE KISSED, you will already know some of the characters and their stories. Whereas with some series, you must read from the beginning, and in order, and although I do recommend reading the first before the second, it’s not imperative that you do because they work well as stand-alone reads. SOUL KISSED is powerful, action-packed, and Erin has created a world that intermingles with human lives in such a way as to believe it could very possibly exist just the way she’s written it. The character relationships, such as that between Mason and Fletcher, are believable, sensitive, and loving when they need to be and powerful, aggressive, and protective when needed to survive. The characters are three dimensional, easily related to even with their extraordinary abilities, and long lasting. I have no doubt that we’ll see more of Mason, Cari, and Fletcher in the books to come. I highly recommend SOUL KISSED by Erin Kellison if you’re a lover of dark and dangerous, magic seeping from every corner of the page, good versus evil plot lines, and urban fantasy with enough paranormal romance heat that you’ll be begging for more as soon as you close this book. Print ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest and unscripted review.
Our Review, by LITERAL ADDICTION's Pack Alpha - Michelle L. Olson: *eARC received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review Just wow... I've been drawn in by the captivating magic of Erin's darkly poetic prose since day one, but this is definitely my favorite book of the series. Erin somehow managed to mesh dark urban fantasy with sweet paranormal romance in a heartfelt, dangerous, sexy miasma of literary goodness. Fan-freaking-tastic! Now that the 'Shadow People' are out and humans are aware things aren't as quiet as they used to be. Not only are the mages at war with themselves and the Order, but now they have yet another group to be worried about. When a magickal plague starts targeting magekind, things get even more intense and unlikely alliances must be formed to try and catch the murderer. Cari Dolan, new head of one of the most established and powerful mage houses must pair with childhood crush Mason Stray (an unaffiliated mage) to catch the culprit. This in itself was exciting. Not only do you have the dynamic of a shared past, but the whole Romeo and Juliet 'forbidden love' vibe as well, but when Mason's son is added to the mix you get even more intensity from the parent vibe, wherein a parent would do just about anything to keep their child safe. If that wasn't enough, Erin added some super heavy-duty antagonists to the mix to make things even more exciting and suspenseful. In short, because I can't tell you more without seriously spoiling the story, Soul Kissed was wonderful and I highly recommend it. I do, however, recommend reading the entire series before taking the plunge. The book is able to be read alone, but there are characters re-introduced from earlier books of the series and some things referenced that make the novel so much more meaningful when you understand the history.